Saturday, April 12, 2014

Never Let Go

The deep emotions shared by this team today & this evening as we prayed together and said our good-byes are a result of a Great Love. Over the course of this week we have shared stories, dreams, miracles, hurts, fears, and victories. We have built friendships and relationships with people we just met for a very short time or worked with for the entire week, yet those connections are for eternity. And not one of the Canadian team members will return tomorrow unchanged. For God has done a mighty work in each of our lives, and the lives of hundreds of children & Compassion workers in this beautiful country of El Salvador.

So how do we say thank you to those who have made this trip so memorable? How do we say good-bye to little faces with tears streaming down their cheeks, arms clinging in an embrace that could last a lifetime? How do we challenge those mothers, grandmothers, fathers and other family members to keep a strong faith in God during the storms of life? How do we encourage the people who tirelessly sacrifice their lives to the service of God for the sake of these little ones and their families? My only answer: Never Let Go. Our prayers for these dearly loved people must continue as we bring them daily before the Throne of Grace to present their needs before an Almighty, Loving, Sovereign God. Prayers for employment, for roofs to not leak, for enough food to feed their families, for safety from gang violence, for freedom from the cycle of broken families and absentee fathers, for strength and resources to run programs, for workers with hearts broken for God & His children, for church leaders with integrity.  And those are just the general prayers, not the specific pleas from each individual. We can never let go to the enduring Promises of God, as He proves Himself faithful day after day.

Never letting go also means we need to set apart time to really demonstrate love to our sponsored children by writing to them as often as possible. The joy of receiving a letter, in contrast to the sadness of being forgotten, is indescribable. The children need to hear we love them. They love to receive prayer requests so they can pray for us, and share their own requests more freely. And they need to be told they are special & that God has a plan for their lives. We can encourage them to become strong leaders for a better future for their families and their country.

We will never forget the blessings this trip has brought. I know, too, that we will not easily forget the lessons we've learned...those moments of epiphany where God has clearly guided our thoughts as He directs us in His path for the future. Most of all, I pray we will be bold to declare His goodness wherever we go... to share those stories of healing & redemption, power & peace with those we return to, as well as invite them to share in the joy of discovering God's deep love. Because God's love endures forever. And without a doubt, throughout each moment of this trip we saw first hand that Jesus makes all the difference.

Thank you for your prayers. We know we could not have experienced the blessings afforded us in this trip without them. And thank you to those who sacrificed so we could be your representatives in this country of beauty, pain & promise.

To close I'd like to share my favourite Spanish word, "esperanza". (I didn't know what it meant, but it is a wonderful sounding word which reminds me of a fizzy clear drink, spritzing up from a glass. Last night I finally learned its meaning: HOPE.  Thank you, Lord, for bringing Hope to so many people through your Son, Jesus!

From my heart to yours

Pastor Deve said that we should all blog at least once. With the Reilly contingency taken into consideration, I am posting my blog with 7 hours to spare.

As our week in El Salvador comes to an end, I can honestly say that my life is forever changed.

We started out with a powerful church service welcoming us into El Salvador. I was overwhelmed by the love that was shared with us. Why did they love us? Simply because we are their brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of the things that spoke to my heart the most about this church is the fact that there is no shame. No shame in their worship, no shame in their praise, no shame in their prayer - but above of things - there was no shame among their congregation. This is something that so many North American churches are missing. I can't even tell you the amount of times that I was going through struggles in my life, and when I walked into the church I felt as though I had a spot light on me. I was so overwhelmed with shame. I think that we get so caught up with being "perfect" Christians, that we are not open about our struggles and our sins. The reality is that it is not our judgement that is going to change people - it's the love of Christ.

I have been thinking and praying about this encounter with God that I have been experiencing and The Lord revealed this to my heart:

We are called to live our lives reflective of God. And what is God? God is love. And perfect love casts out all fear. When our lives truly reflect the heart of God it's brings freedom, not only to us but to the people around us.

"There are some of us that have never encountered the love of God, but he wants to encounter you. He wants you to feel his amazing love and his presence - and you would know if you have encountered the love of God because you'd never be the same again." - Kim Walker

Through this entire week, I know that I have been encountering the love of God through these children, these churches and through every family that we've met. And I know, because I will never be the same again.

Here, while surrounded by the worst poverty that I've ever experienced, I've never felt closer to heaven.

My prayer for you is that you will embrace the love that God is freely pouring upon you and that you will allow it to forever change your heart.

Colossians 3:14
2 Timothy 1:7
1 John 4:16-19

Much love,
Your sister in Christ,

The world is waiting to hear your story...

Well after each one of us said our good byes to our amazing compassion translator team and driver I stood back and watched how awesome my God is.  Not only did He bring our team together as a family but brought their team and ours and made us one. Their team as Steve said tonight were our advocates. Each and everyone played such a huge role in making this an amazing chapter in my own life. Today a young girl preached at our worship service during our last project visit. Five years old not able to read or write but the word of God over flowed out of her like a living well. God can change you, people can change you but when a child touches your heart the way some of us felt this week it will change us internally. Poverty is a scary and very sad thing when we are blessed to come from the stability North America offers.  But I never in my life have had The Holy Spirit reveal himself so bluntly as He did through these children. Compassion 2014 will forever change me.  I will be a better Christian, a more loving mother and wife.  Forever I will share my story, will keep my memories close and be obedient to Gods word. Because even these children's stories are rewritten and we could have met the young boy or girl that will bring this country out of poverty and provide a new generation for all these precious children and their families. 

In Christian love,      Erin Norcross-Cain 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

God Is Here

So today I had the opportunity to meet our sponsor child, Carlos. It was honestly the best day of my life thus far.

As we stepped off the bus I saw one of the translators pointing us it to him and I was just so happy to see him standing there. Then they sent he kids off and the all ran right at us and hugged us. I've never seen such a beautiful event. I mean, these kids, who we have never met and barely know, are running at us with love and open arms with such joy. Although we speak different languages and live in different countries, we all worship the same God and that has just been shown through these children and their families.

I would never had thought that I would have the chance to meet him. It was the biggest blessing. We played soccer, had swimming races, jumped into the pool together and just had a great time! It was very hard to leave him when it was time to go. Both my dad and I were crying and we were all hugging. We prayed with him and his grandma and they told us about things they needed prayer for. It was so hard to hear about the struggles that they have and they illness in their family. Carlos had dressed up for the day and it's so unbelievable to think that he doesn't live in a nice home and he lives in a country that is FULL of poverty. Then I told him that I love him and God loves him and that was just the best thing to be able to tell him to his face that I love him, and not just through a letter.

So in all today, I very much felt the presence of God through Carlos. He had so much energy and he had all these questions for us and even though we couldn't always talk to each other, we connected and communicated in different ways. I really felt so much love for him today and it was the hardest thing saying good bye. But I know that he loves us just as much as we love him and we've only met once but through the love of Christ and our same faith, I now have a new brother that I am more than happy to welcome into my family.


Tears of Joy

Today I was gifted with the opportunity to spend the day with my sponsor child. When we got out of the bus, there all our kids were, waiting with signs with our names on them in bold lettering. As we stood outside the bus waiting for everyone to unload, you could feel the excitment grow by the second. Then the first name was called and the most wonderful sight was seen. The children with that name ran out across the field as their sponsor ran from the opposite direction and fell on there knees in the middle of the field to hug three beautiful children that had run as fast as they could to wrap their slim arms around her. When my name was called I saw my beautiful girl take off running with our other little boy looking for me and my family. For the first time I cried joyful tears, praising God for the wonderful gift He had given me. I hugged her with as much love as I have ever felt before as tears were running down my face. It was the first time I was able to hold my gorgeous girl in my arms and tell her I love her. This moment will forever stay in my mind and everytime I look back on it my eyes fill with happy tears that I didn't even know were there. Now whenever I have a bad day all I have to do is embrace this moment and remember that somewhere in this world there is a beautiful little girl named Yency who loves me and an amazing God that had planned this all out before I was even born. I now have a new chapter in my book to share with you all in this great journey the Lord has prepared for me.


Wow just wow

What an amazing day getting to meet my sponsor children in real life. My one kid named Alonso was very busy! I don't even think my sisters have as much energy as him!  On Wednesday I had the privilege to go to meet one of my Aunt Sandra's sponsor children Marvin at his house. Today once he noticed that I was there he asked me to go down a slide with him and that one time turned into a very big number of times. I don't think I have ever seen a bigger smile than I did that day. Bernice my grandmas sponsor child also got to come and spend the day with us. I think I will always have a picture in my head of her smiling while my mom pulled her around the pool. Our other sponsor child Yenci loved my sister Tali and spent the whole day swimming and playing with her. The hardest part of the day was saying good bye to my new best friends. I will always remember them. 

God is good.

I'm lost for words. As a person who rarely stops talking, this is a different feeling.

These last two days specifically have been a rollercoaster of mixed emotions. With the highs being so high that cloud nine seemed too low, and lows being so low that you feel like your heart alone weighs 100 pounds.

Yesterday, I had the blessing of meeting my sponsor child Adriana. We were welcomed into the project with such enthusiasm that I couldn't focus on anything in particular. I remember seeing Sandra with her sponser child who had a sign with her name, and I thought to myself, maybe mine's at school, maybe I'll meet her later, or maybe today is not the day that God has chosen for us to meet. 

That was when I looked up and saw Erin's face through the crowd of children, and her eyes were smiling - I followed her line of sight up to the front of the church, where in the midst of an abundance of children - was my sweet Adriana. She was holding up a sign with my name on it. Most of the next 3 minutes is a blur remembered through tears. I remember thinking "that's mine, she's mine" and then those thoughts turned into me patting my chest and saying louder and louder, "she's mine, she's mine!" As I struggled to rip off my pack, my water bottle holder and even my camera came flying off my shoulders as I tried my best to get to her as fast as I could. Luckily, Cara was nice and close by so she caught my camera in the midst of it all. I have never had such happy tears in all of my life. When I hugged her I felt like the world was right, like my life at this point could be complete and I would be happy.

It took her time to warm up to me, but I am so thankful that I was able to spend all day yesterday with her because this morning when we showed up to the park for our fun day with them she ran right into my arms. The rest of today was spent hearing her sweet laughter and her high pitched little voice calling "breenaa". I pray that today will not be the last day that I see her.

God is good. God is great.
And I have been witness to that this week more than any other.

I think I found my words.


I Love It!!

The past two days have been great. It's been hot, but honestly I love it. I love this place, the people, and all the things I am learning.

Yesterday, I helped build the houses. I drilled, and even dug a hole in the extremely hard ground. I worked alongside the women from the area which are some of the hardest working women I have ever met. They get right in there and do whatever needs to be done.

Today I helped with some building but focused more on getting to know the people. I met some around my age as well as some precious younger kids. It's amazing, as soon as you pull out some candy and elastics for bracelets you are instantly surrounded. After doing that for a little while, I went with some of the ladies on the team and some of the locals down to the river. We met some women who were doing their laundry in the river, and I went in and helped them. It's hard work but it's fun and they do it so quickly. I think they thought it was funny as we tried to do it.

The week goes by fast, but I know that the next two days are going to be exciting and I'm looking forward to see what's in store.

One of my favourite things to do is riding on the back of the truck. I love standing up on the post at the front and looking out over everything. I guess it's the perspective really, you get to see everything. I look around and see all these faces and I want to get to know all of them.

On the right is my buddy Kevin who stayed with me the whole day :)


What's the difference?

I never told anyone this, but I had a deep rooted fear of seeing extreme poverty first hand. I had seen pictures and videos, but I feared being in the midst of it. I never feared what it was, but I did fear is what it might do to me. 
Extreme poverty bothered me so much, that I felt like being in it, smelling and tasting it, would easily  defeat my spirit. I think I never wanted to TRULY see and feel how the chains of poverty destroyed hope and joy. 
So far in this journey, I have yet to feel defeat. I have yet to feel dismay. I have now sat in the homes of two families who barely have means to survive with basic supplies. Life here is constant work to provide basic needs that I have NEVER even had to think about, ever.
In the midst of sights that words don't do justice, I keep seeing peace, joy and love of His people. Karen Allen said 'there's no personal space here with these people'.....

What's the difference?

The difference is Jesus.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014


A brief update considering the events of the last two days:

First, on behalf of the Shelter team of leaders, thanks to those of you who have been praying earnestly for us. We serve a Great God, who is able to lead us forward while walking with us, protecting us from behind, and watching over us. How He does it, we'll likely never know. What we do know is that we sense it, even in the midst of difficult circumstance there is Peace.

Today, we were able to go into a different community and build 4 houses!! 4 families lives are changed and 4 more opportunities to share the love of Jesus.

We were also able to start our meetings today, and while I'm sure you excited to hear all about them, I'll share this one story: Pastor Herman, from the Auditorio Cristiano Church in San Salvador, came to share the vision of their church family. He spoke from Acts 2, and the movement of the followers of Jesus into the community, region and outward into the world. It's a message that echoes the heart of Shelter and it echoes the heart of the SEMC.

It's amazing to be caught up in Our God's unfolding story!!  I"m blown away every time that comes clear.

One more tidbit: I had the privilege of having a lunch meeting with Pastor Herman and Pastor Ricardo.   Pastor Herman was sharing with me how he had been pastoring there for 7 years and it just recently felt as though the church family really understood and were living according to the vision. I then had the privilege to talk about the Lord's work at the SEMC, and shared a similar story...again very amazing what the Lord is doing, uniting communities, churches and leaders across thousands of miles - together for the Glory of Jesus Christ!!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Experiencing something new

This trip has been so incredibly eye opening to hear from the lives directly touched and forever changed by the efforts of the compassion organization. To hear them say Thanks be to God I am so blessed. It has been a priveledge to sit and hear their stories of how in desperation they called to God and he answered faithfully and miraculously.

But I must say I do miss the familiar faces, the ones I look forward to seeing. I keep telling myself this is a new and different trip enjoy the newness of it, but I find myself still searching and missing my friends here. With the house building projects we start as strangers but soon we are friends that get to know each other better as the week goes on. This experience the faces are different with each stop we make. Wow there are so many to pray for already and it is only Tuesday. What a neat experience to watch my kids take it all in! Taijah and Shailah I wish you could have come but all the standing and sitting still, would surely have driven you mad!

Looking very much forward to wrapping my arms and my heart around a special boy and girl on Thursday, whose faces I will see on my fridge for many years to come, Lord willing.

Love you all at home tonnes!
P.S. Amanda just in case you were wondering, I am loving the heat and missing sharing it with you:)


Monday, April 7, 2014


I just got off a FaceTime call with my friend/brother/co-minister Steve Metcalfe. He's leading the Compassion team this week and had so many exciting stories to share. It's just another reminder of the depth of love that the Lord has given to us for the people of El Salvador. What a privilege to hear about it, pray into it and celebrate with them!!

Aynsley and I also just wrapped up our debrief with our Shelter team tonight. It was more of a somber, reflective time, however, it ended in a resolve to continue what we're called to do and in united song of praise - the Doxology.

Why the somber mood: After the events of yesterday (See Aynsley's post below), we went back out to the community, prepared to build the 8 remaining houses. However, as we arrived that number had dwindled to 6. Why?  The shooting we had heard yesterday, sent one man to the hospital (where he remains in serious condition). In fact, it turns out that we saw the gunman leaving on his motorcycle. The result of this activity - the families we were to build for have decided to leave the community.  6 new homes, dwindled to 3...which we built and then made a hasty exit. Later this afternoon, we sent a group of local people in, and they removed 2 of the homes we built. Everyone, but one family, has left that community.

Part of our prayer, everyday is for God to protect us from evil and for God to shine light into the darkness. We need both these powerful acts of God continually. These last two days has been a sober reminder of those realities. We are thankful that this community has been forced to face the reality of the evil that often stays hidden and that they made a choice to leave. We pray that the Lord would provide for them in the days, weeks and months to come. Please join us in that prayer.

We pray for the resolve to (re)build 9 homes over the course of the next couple of days in a different community and to be able to bless 9 families. Please join us in that prayer.

We pray that God would continue to deepen our love for Him, His purposes and the way in which He is coming against the present evil in this country. Please join us in that prayer.

We pray that God would rescue and redeem men, women and children in El Salvador, bringing them into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Please join us in that prayer.

The paradox, as Steve and I talked about is this: how could we witness lives being changed by Jesus Christ, and the resultant praise and joy, in a country where such evil and violence exists.  This much we know that God is at work here and we're privileged to be a part of it; in different ways - all of which is making a tangible Kingdom difference.

This paradox of God's grace in the midst of evil leads us to doxological praise, knowing that God's purposes will prevail. Please join us in this:

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost


We all worship the same God.......

Wow what an amazing day. The Lord not only showed me the love and strength He provides to us but how our obedience to Him is life changing.  Today we met a thirty year old mother of three, for those of you who don't know me well I am a thirty one year old mother of three.  Ana Elizabeth was her name and her testimony will forever change me. A year ago today I lost the women who raised me, who showed me compassion and unconditional love, my aunt dee. To see where God has taken me in one year is unexplainable. But today, in the strength and faith Ana showed it made the day I dreaded for a whole year I most powerful moment God has showed himself to me. Words will not describe how loved and thankful I am to have such an amazing saviour call me his own.  Today I thank God for every miracle He has preformed in Anas family life. I thank Him for how faithful He is to me and I am just so excited for what is in store the next few days for our team.

Erin Norcross-Cain

Scared but Fearless

Being scared is hearing gunshots at the work site. Being scared is leaving the work site early. Being scared is not knowing what will happen to those families.

Being fearless is Tomasita and Basillio as they risk their own safety for us to find answers. Being fearless is Carrie and Stuart as they raise four little children in a very scary country. Being fearless is the congregation of Rio Frio as they worship God. Being fearless is trusting that God has a plan.

We live in a scary world. I think that sometimes we forget that, or just push it over. But, we live in a real world, with scary real life problems. I'm not saying we shouldn't be scared. Being scared is a normal, human thing. But being fearless, being fearless is giving it all up to The One who gave it all.

As we go back to that work site tomorrow, we would so appreciate your prayer for our safety. We will be building all the houses tomorrow, minus two that are no longer being built.


P.S. There is more to this story, and we'll share it sometime soon...for now your prayer continues to be needed.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Compassion Week

If you're reading this it's likely because you either have a previous connection to our relationship with the people of El Salvador or you have a connection to the people involved in this next trip/adventure/learning experience.

Let me tell you two (of many) reasons why I'm excited about what the Lord has in store for our church family this week:

1.  This trip is a tangible expression not just of "giving" but of "generosity". Over the course of the last five years, people in our church family have been sponsoring children in El Salvador (and other places) through Compassion Canada.  How many kids we never really knew? But each year when our work team would head down, those who remained would sponsor children, making a monthly monetary commitment to a Christ-centred care ministry.  There is a team of 16 people who will have the opportunity to meet their 14 sponsored children!!  More than that, there are an additional 12 children that will receive a gift box from their sponsors!!  The Lord is at work moving us from being a "giving" church family to a "generous" church family. Sacrificial generosity reflects the character of God and it's humbling to see it in action. Many of the people on this trip wouldn't necessarily be able to participate in a "work team". This trip allows them to continue to feed our desire to enter into the mutually beneficial cross cultural global relationships. I look forward to learning from this team!!

2. This team is an intergenerational team. It's reflects one of the consistent themes that we have been addressing over the course of a number of years: At the SEMC we do life, together!!  There are people in their teens, 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's and yes 70's part of this team...what a testimony to the way in which Our God is seeking to reveal His love for us and others.  They will go through the week together, pray together, share together, experience so many new things together and have a lot of fun in the process.

I could go on and on...but let me invite you to pray consistently and earnestly for this team; they are unique people called together for a unique purpose and God will not only bring change to their lives, but will also use them to continue to change our lives to glorify Him!

Lord willing, you will hear/read a little of their experiences throughout the week in this space.

May the Lord bless you for sharing the journey with us,